Record Sealing –Frequently Asked Questions

Gavel on a book

Are you ready to have your records sealed or expunged? Sealing of a record is a court order to seal your record from commercial background check services. Even if you were never convicted of crimes, arrests will still show up on background checks, so getting it sealed can be critical for when you are applying for jobs, loans, and many other aspects of your life. It keeps not only your case information and proceedings, but also personal information such as DNA, fingerprints, etc. from anyone in the general public who is willing to search for it or pay for it. While sealed records are not destroyed; there’s an actual seal that is put over the file that can only be broken under very specific conditions and by very specific entities (see below) who have access to a sealed record.

Expungement means to destroy, delete or erase a record so that it’s permanently unretrievable, and it can never be found again. Expungement is currently only available to a victim of human trafficking.

There are many arrest records, criminal charges, and convictions that CAN be sealed. Crimes that are not sealable in Ohio include:

  • Felonies of the first and second degree (F1 and F2)
  • Crimes involving felony sex offenses
  • OVI offenses
  • Crimes of violence

In order to have your record sealed, you have to make sure that your sentence has been completed, whether that sentence was jail time or community control/probation. There is also a waiting period following the completion of your sentence.

  • The waiting period for misdemeanor is one year after the completion of the sentence.
  • For a felony, the waiting period is two years or more depending on the number of felonies involved.
  • In addition to the completion of sentence and the waiting period, all fines, fees, and restitution must be paid.
  • Arrests or charges that were never indicted have an excellent chance of being sealed.
  • The waiting period is two years from the time the grand jury failed to indict the case or no bill was returned.
  • Some charges can often be sealed immediately when we know that the prosecution isn’t moving forward.

In addition to personal pride, sealing a criminal record is highly important for many reasons including: background checks, purchasing property, obtaining licenses, getting promotions, changing jobs or finding a new one. These tasks can be extremely difficult or seemingly impossible if you’ve been charged with a crime. Your legal records are public information so running for office, becoming a public figure, being a volunteer with your child’s school or sports team, and even adopting a dog can be hindered if you have a record.

Don’t let the mistakes of your past impact your future. By getting an attorney to properly seal your records, you will never have to worry about the general public seeing your records. You will have the personal satisfaction and knowledge that those mistakes have been remedied. You deserve a clean slate and the ability to move on with your life. If you were found not guilty or had charges dismissed, that slate should never have been dirtied in the first place.

The only people with access to a sealed record are:

  • You (the person whose record is sealed).
  • Law enforcement or prosecutors for purposes of investigation, appropriateness of charge, or impeachment of a defendant.
  • The police officer involved in the original case if necessary for their own defense in a civil action.
  • Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections or Youth Services, the prison system and the juvenile prison system background checks for employment in those facilities.
  • The Ohio BCI, Sheriff’s departments for reporting purposes and government background checks.
  • The State Attorney General’s office for sex offender classification and BMV for driver’s license points classification.
  • Boards of Education whereas a permanent expulsion was considered.

We are often asked questions such as “can you do it on your own?” and “Why do I need an attorney if I have to fill out all these forms anyway?” Only you know what happened in your case, so while there is some paperwork to complete when you hire an attorney, it is well worth it. When people file their own seal records requests without the help of an attorney, they often do not get the results they desire.

  • First there is the motion itself that must be filed. It is the written/verbal request to the court to have these record sealed.
  • Next, each seal records request must go through an evidentiary hearing.

The motion to seal requires factual support including records for timeline of eligibility, character letters, and often a legal analysis to demonstrate to the court that the applicant is a good candidate for a records seal. If it is important to you get your records sealed correctly or quickly, you should consider talking to a skilled attorney as soon as possible

Having an experienced attorney for the evidentiary hearing can be crucial to your chance of success. Most people are not aware of what to do and say at an evidentiary hearing. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney is accustomed to dealing with these hearings on a regular basis. The skilled defense attorney will know exactly what to do and say to get the results you want. Even simple cases can become quite complex when the prosecutor’s office opposes the request and/or the record seals are not granted for other reasons. A skilled defense attorney will fight back through the proper channels to give you the best chance of having your record sealed appropriately.

If you have been thinking about sealing your record to stop the public from seeing everything about you, now is the time. Contact a criminal defense attorney to get the process started today.

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  • Ohio Sex Offender Registry Read More
  • Leveraging DNA & Other Forensic Evidence in Criminal Defense Strategies Read More

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